Expats winter fuel allowance to change?

Expats winter fuel allowance to change?

The British government is considering changes to the winter fuel allowances for expats living abroad, with the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith looking at introducing a 'temperature test' which would stop those living in warmer countries from being able to claim.

Currently any household with a pensioner with a "genuine and sufficient link" to the UK qualifies for a payment of £200 to help with the costs of heating their home in winter, whether they are living in the UK or abroad. Those with someone over 80 get £300.

In the 2010-11 winter, 72,840 of the 444,000 expats living abroad claimed winter fuel payments, at a total cost of almost £16 million. Mr Duncan Smith has branded the rules 'ludicrous' .

Michelle Mitchell, director-general of Age UK, said the payments provided "a lifeline to many vulnerable older people" who worried about their fuel bills.

"While the introduction of a temperature test could allay concerns about ex-pats in hot countries receiving the payment, it is important that proposals for change do not complicate the system or result in those in need losing out," she said.

The average low January temperature in Portsmouth is 41.4F (5.2C), warmer than Madrid, which has an average low of 37.4F (3C).

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